Wider oil and gas blocks for tender

Proposals for another tendering round offering more oil and gas exploration blocks around the country for next year were released yesterday by Government permitting agency New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals.

While the Government forges ahead to attract oil and gas explorers, to boost export receipts and jobs, there is mounting environmental concern over the dangers of deep-sea drilling, the consenting processes and onshore use of hydraulic horizontal hydraulic fracturing; or "fracking".

Energy and Resources Minister Phil Heatley said Taranaki's existing oil and gas operations contributed $2 billion to gross domestic product, supported more than 5000 jobs and provided $400 million in annual royalties and $300 million from company tax.

"Oil and gas happily co-exist with agriculture and tourism in Taranaki to everyone's benefit.

The same formula can work just as well in other areas, growing the local and national economies," Mr Heatley said in a statement yesterday.

Separately, New Zealand's oil and gas sector escapes other proposed changes to the Government's royalty and tax regimes, which will mainly affect new mining companies.

Green Party energy spokesman, Gareth Hughes, said if there was a leak during deep-sea exploration drilling there was "no sure way" to stop it and the consequences would be "catastrophic" for New Zealand's environment, economy and reputation.

Oil and gas exploration permits stand for five years, but under the Crown Minerals (Permitting and Crown Land) Bill before Parliament, exploration duration would range from 10 to 15 years, including the 2013 permits, if enacted.

This year's 2012 block offering closed in October, with successful applicants expected to be announced next month, which included some blocks offered within the Great South Basin.

The 2013 bidding round is scheduled to open next April, following consultation with councils and iwi, with bids lodged by the end of September and announced before the end of the year.

Permitted exploration activities include shipborne seismic surveys, sampling, aeromagnetic surveying, geological studies, collation of historical reports, analysis of more recent data and exploratory drilling by an oil rig or drill ship.

Exploration blocks more than 12 nautical miles offshore, where the Resource Management Act does not apply, come under the new Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012. Compliance with that legislation may yet include applying for a marine consent from the Environmental Protection Authority.


At a glance
2013 block offers.

• Five onshore blocks - three in Taranaki and two East Coast, North Island. Onshore area: 2310sq km.
• Offshore areas in Northland and Reinga Basins, Taranaki Basin and Canterbury and Great South Basins. Offshore area: 173,462sq km.



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